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Congress sends sweeping housing bill to president

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The Mortgage Bankers Association is calling a sweeping housing bill headed to President Bush's desk this week "the most important housing-related legislation in more than a generation." But some critics say that although the legislation provides a much needed backstop to keep Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's doors open, it will do little else to lessen the impact of the housing downturn. In a 72-13 vote Saturday, the Senate concurred with previous House amendments to HR 3221 -- in effect granting the Bush administration's request to give the Treasury Department the temporary authority to buy an unlimited amount of the debt of government-chartered mortgage financiers Fannie and Freddie. With mounting losses at Fannie and Freddie creating doubts about their ability to raise additional capital, the Bush administration decided to explicitly state that the government stands behind the for-profit, publicly traded companies. If the faith of financial markets in Fannie and ...